Maine’s immigration newspaper Amjambo Africa expands reach

Apr 04, 2019
Amjambo Africa cofounders Kit Harrison, left, and Georges Budagu Makoko celebrate the expansion of their enterprise.

Amjambo Africa was founded by the nonprofit organization Ladder to the Moon Network on April 1, 2018, as a free monthly print newspaper celebrating Maine’s growing diversity and covering stories about the immigrant experience in Maine.

One year after its founding, on April 1, 2019, the newspaper added an online site — amjamboafrica.com — making it a multimedia news organization.

The newspaper currently prints 10,000 paper copies monthly and distributes to 200 locations, primarily in metropolitan areas and along the coast. The online edition will expand the publication’s reach to include easy access for readers who reside outside the current print distribution network, or who are homebound. In addition, those readers who prefer to look at their content on computers and devices will now be able to do so.

The organization also maintains an active social media presence. Amjambo Africa carries immigration-related news coverage from around the state, updates from Africa, society pictures, sports and entertainment news, economic reports, cultural insights, calendar updates, poetry, legislative developments, job listings, and more.

Content appears in English, French, Kinyarwanda, Somali, and Swahili, thanks to a team of immigrant translators. The organization’s next project will be to add Portuguese, in order to meet the needs of Maine’s Angolan community.

The paper has attracted an enthusiastic following that includes both recent immigrants and long-time Mainers. A group of volunteers helps to distribute the paper and Reade Brower, who owns most of Maine’s papers, including Courier Publications and the Portland Press Herald-Maine Sunday Telegram, has helped co-founders Georges Budagu Makoko and Kit Harrison learn the ropes of the newspaper business.

Budagu and Harrison shared some of the dozens of anniversary messages of appreciation they have received from readers; for example, this message from Henry Lanford: “I just wanted to tell you how valuable and also in fact wonderful your publication is. I love it and feel it has given me a huge jump in my ability to truly feel part of this country. It brings a concrete feeling of closeness.”

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, sent the following: “Congratulations to Amjambo Africa for one year of important work delivering the news to Maine people. Maine’s immigrant community brings new languages, ideas, and innovation to our state –- strengthening our economy and adding to the vibrant cultures unique to Maine cities and towns.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-2nd Dist., wrote: “I commend Amjambo Africa for creating an opportunity for new arrivals to share their experiences and challenges while, at the same time, expanding awareness and understanding among the rest of us.”

Gov. Janet Mills said, “Amjambo Africa lifts up the voices of Mainers, and I commend all involved on creating a welcoming, inclusive newspaper for Mainers of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds to share news, cultures and ideas.”

Harrison and Budagu founded the publication out of a shared belief that Maine’s newcomer and local populations would benefit from knowing more about each other. Budagu, the publisher, said, “The initiative grew out of a strong desire to serve newcomers from Africa with limited English proficiency -– a population that was completely isolated due to a lack of access to information in languages they could understand.

"We also wanted to raise awareness in local Mainers of the scope of the conflicts in Africa, which has caused millions of people to flee their countries, and some to seek safety here in Maine. We believe that an educated community is a strong community.”

Harrison, managing editor and former teacher, says the publication has already been added to the toolkit of many language and social studies educators in the state. As the publication enters its second year, she urges more educators, legislators, community association leaders, organizers and decision-makers to turn to Amjambo Africa for accurate information.

Harrison notes that at present the state boasts well over 50,000 foreign-born residents, and as the state’s demographic shifts over the next decade, and more newcomers of different backgrounds move in, she says it will be increasingly important for Mainers all around the state to understand who has moved here, why they have come, and how they can help the state.

Amjambo Africa is based at the Immigrant Welcome Center at 24 Preble St., Portland.

Readers are invited to contact the managing editor at amjamboafrica@gmail.com with events they would like featured or a story they think should be covered. Kit Harrison, of Camden, can be reached at 542-0459 or amjamboafrica@gmail.com.

 

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